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AT&T launches LG Thrive pre-paid Android smartphone

AT&T has announced it is launched its first pre-paid smartphone in the form of the LG Thrive, adding the device to the company’s GoPhone program so customers can pay as they go—including mobile data—without committing to a long-term contact. Of course, AT&T will also be offering an on-contract version of the same device, dubbed the LG Phoenix. Both go on sale April 17.

AT&T LG Thrive, LG Phoenix

“We are excited to add LG Thrive, the first smartphone for GoPhone, to AT&T’s growing Android portfolio,” said AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets VP Judy Cavalieri, in a statement. “Thrive brings more choice and more value to our GoPhone customers by delivering the benefits of a smartphone, balanced with functionality and affordability.”

Both the LG Thrive and LG Phoenix sport 3.2-inch 320-by-480-pixel touchscreen displays and run Android 2.2 running on a 600 MHz processor; they offer a 3.2 megapixel camera, 3G data service using AT&T’s HSPA network (with speeds theoretically reaching 7.2 Mbps, although in practice it’s far lower), along with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless networking. The devices sport assisted GPS, 160 MB of user-accessible memory, and a microSD storage slot for up to 32 GB of additional storage capacity.

AT&T will be offering the LG Thrive for a starter price of $179.99 so long as users sign up with a GoPhone prepaid plan: available plans include $2 a day for unlimited calling and text messaging plus $0.01 per KB of data transfer, paid only on days you use the phone. (This also translates directly to a $60 per month plan). Users can also choose a $75 per month plan with unlimited calling and text with 200 MB of data a month, or a “Simple Rate Plan” where calls are $0.10 a minute, messaging is either unlimited or $19.99 a month, and data is a penny per KB.

If folks are OK with a two-year commitment, the LG Phoenix will be available on April 17 with a new two-year service plan, and the device can be used with AT&T’s Mobile Hotspot and Tethering features on its DataPro 4 GB Plan with overages costing $10 per GB.

Bringing Android into the pre-paid arena serves as another indicator of how smartphone technologies are creeping down from high-end “luxury” phones into more everyday devices affordable by folks who don’t need ever whizbang feature and don’t have phones glued to their hands. It also puts AT&T into more direct competition with acquisition target T-Mobile, which has historically had a strong position in the pre-paid market.